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Celebrating One’s Birthday

For some reason, it got stuck in my head that when I turn 70, someone in my family will plan something really big to celebrate my life, even if I am still alive (pun intended). So, several months ago, I told my wife that I don’t want any birthday celebration this year or any surprises whatsoever on my birthday. If she insists, a simple family dinner is enough, probably coupled with a few selfies.

Every time someone asks me how old I will be this year, I facetiously tell them that I’ll be 66 years old – a reference to the year that I graduated from high school. Actually, it is my way of telling them that my 70th birthday will not be this year; call it a denial of sorts.

I don’t even want my friends on Facebook to know my birthdate to avoid being reminded that I am getting old – a state that many of my friends describe as being in the pre-departure area. But Facebook gives you a daily reminder of its members’ special day. So I don’t have much of a choice. Many of my Facebook friends eventually found out that October 20 was my birthday, except for a friend in Switzerland who greeted me ten days earlier on October 10.

Came October 20, an onslaught of birthday greetings started appearing on Facebook. Phone calls and personal greetings came. The greetings ranged from wishing me good health, more blessings, prayers, long life, more happiness, good thoughts that will last through the years, and love.

How I wish all these good wishes would come true. I would probably be the happiest man alive.

But sometimes I wonder why we even bother to celebrate birthdays. For many years, I think that celebrating one’s birthday is just an opportunity for our partners, children, and friends to congratulate us and wish us well for surviving another year. It’s like a celebration of our birth and thanking the Almighty that we are still alive. That’s how I’ve looked at birthdays.

Last week, all of that changed.

I’ve realized that a birthday is not just a celebration of the day I was born. It’s also a celebration of my entire life starting with the day I was born.

For me a birthday is an opportunity to look into one’s inner self and ask: What have I done during the last 40, 50 or 60 years of my life that calls for a celebration?

It may or may not be an easy question to answer. The important thing is to confront ourselves with hard questions whose answers will determine where we are at in our life’s journey. Equally important is to recognize our failures, and every year from hereon, to turn these failures into successes. These are the gifts that really matter. All the other materials gifts become secondary as we age.

The reason I am writing this article is not to proselytize, but to thank many individuals who, notwithstanding my failures, showed their care, friendship, appreciation, and celebrated with me in a special way. Their birthday greetings and wishes are gifts I will forever treasure.

And, this brings me to the surprise gift that I received during my birthday. It was a video that my daughters and their respective husbands produced and posted on Facebook.

It was a 5-minute video of our five grandchildren, ages 3 months old to 5 years old, guessing my age, my favorite color, my favorite sports, and recalling the stuff that I’ve taught them or done with them.

I found the video quite funny especially when I learned for the first time from our grandchildren that my favorite color is orange, that I’m like a gorilla, that I’m 90 years-old, and that I don’t look like one of them because I am bald.

The producers of the video definitely knew how to make me laugh, strip me of my modesty, and at the same time stir my emotions in a most meaningful way, sans any form of sentimentality.

Something special always happens on my birthday each year. There is no better way to celebrate my birthday this year than to realize that as I advance in age, a new life is born through our grandchildren that’s very much a part of me. Life for me will forever continue. This indeed calls for a celebration.

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